If winter didn’t come, would spring or fall appear?

My review essay of Adam Gopnik’s Winter: Five Windows on the Season (Toronto: Anansi Press, 2011) can be read now or, pending that, fairly soon at Writing in Public. The book is comprised of a set of five lectures that Gopnik, a longtime New Yorker writer, Montreal native, and NYC denizen, delivered on CBC Radio in November of 2011.

In case you missed it, the title of the post (look up) is a reference to Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind.” The final line of Shelley’s poem reads, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” I’m not sure that this is the title of the piece that James (about whom more anon: look down) ultimately went with. Perhaps, and here culling his good sense, he opted for one more suitable. Either way, the meaning of the joke will become clearer once you read the opening of the review.

(Update: the review is entitled, rather poetically, “Our Winter Ourselves.”)

Below, I’ve snipped a short tete-a-tete from a longer email exchange that occurred between me and my friend James, the Editor of Writing in Public. (Ah, so here we have the good and proper introduction after all! Welcome character!) In the following, there’s a joke that has to do with my middle name, which is James.

(We are having fun, aren’t we? Oh Friday: Te abrazo.)

Andrew: James, good ear and eye throughout. The best line (perhaps the best I’ve written in quite a while) is that one about Bloomberg. You saw that and you gave it top billing. Well done.

Your question about genre is an apt one. I think, if I were pressed, I’d call Gopkin’s lectures essays in the history of ideas. (I also flirted with the possibility of calling them surveys. The etymology of “survey” seemed fitting, but also a bit too precious.) Essays, yes.

James: Andrew, it should be published next Friday, March 2nd. Not really winter, but still.

And yes, the first line of the essay was clearly buried in the second paragraph. We (meaning I) often bury the good sentences and I wonder why. Do we fear them?

A Homey Gift

I tend to pass most books on once I’ve read them. The same goes for Gopnik’s. So, if you’d like my copy, I’d be happy to drop it in the mail for you. You need only go up to the Contact form (imagine one of those big, white gloved index fingers pointing up and to the right) and provide me with your contact information and mailing address.

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